Oakland Raiders

What to make of first round pick Khalil Mack

The Oakland Raiders were ecstatic when linebacker Khalil Mack fell to them with the fifth pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. The Raiders were in desperate need of an upgrade in the pass rush and Mack excelled as a sack-happy linebacker at the University of Buffalo. In fact, Mack was so good in college that some believed he was just as good of a prospect as Jadeveon Clowney (if not even better). At the very least it was believed that if Mack was not ready to be an every down guy, he’d be able to make a difference as a situational pass rusher

Fast forward six games into the season and the vaunted pass rusher has still not recorded his first sack. Mack has come close with four hits and 12 hurries, but has yet to be able to complete an actual sack, and it’s been noticeable. The Raiders are once again struggling to get to the quarterback and every big upgrade they brought in to address that problem is failing at the task to which they were assigned. Mack included.

But on the bright side, Mack has surprised many by showing he is an every down player right out of the gate. While Mack hasn’t made his mark as a pass rusher, he has been good against the run. Really good. According to Pro Football Focus, Mack is actually the highest-ranked run defending linebacker in the NFL, as well as the third-best outside linebacker who plays in a 3-4 defense. Mack has 29 solo tackles and seven assisted tackles, including 20 tackles that resulted in a failed play for opponents (no gain or worse).

So while it’s been frustrating to see a *zero* next to sacks under Mack’s name, it’s comforting that he’s playing far better in an area of the game where he was supposed to struggle. Mack has not yet completed half of his rookie season, so it’s nowhere near time to start panicking. He has plenty of time and ability to improve his pass rushing skills and luckily for the Raiders, he has already done enough to justifiably earn a starting role without the sacks.

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